Facts and Knowledge in Democratic Politics

Facts and Knowledge in Democratic Politics


The way in which participants in political debate make use of facts has changed in the past few years. Emergent technologies have made it easier for the public to access information relevant to political decisions, and platforms have emerged that allow people to generate alternatives to established media. Though these are welcome developments, a new set of challenges to how we conduct politics has emerged alongside them. The sheer volume of information now available has made it harder, in some cases, to establish the veracity and quality of the data that we have access to, and (in the short term at least) has led to the emergence of online ‘echo chambers’ and the proliferation of ‘fake news’. It appears that the deep divides in many societies are being exacerbated by notionally factual disputes and that the public are becoming increasingly mistrustful of established sources of information and, by extension, each other. It remains unclear how these developments will play out – for example what the main sources of news and information will be in a decade – but even as the situation develops it is worth re-appraising the ways in which different political theories treat disputes about matters of fact.


In light of these developments, the workshop will explore the obligations that different actors have when engaging in such disputes, and the role that empirical evidence ought to play in political deliberation and the justification of laws. For citizens these obligations might include the requirement to inform themselves adequately, or not to mislead others when advocating changes in the law; for the state and larger institutions such as those in the media they are likely to involve the handling of data and the presentation of facts.


The nature of these obligations will bear upon the way that we approach established theories of democracy and political legitimacy. The workshop will look to explore the way that existing theories might be adapted to respond to changes in the way that knowledge is formed and exchanged. It will also deal with ongoing debates around factual knowledge in democratic theory such as the status of expert knowledge that is not accessible or comprehensible to the vast majority of the population, and the ethics of lying or misleading in politics.


This workshop aims to bring together theorists working in all areas of political theory who address these issues. Submissions are welcome from scholars at all career stages. Submissions are encouraged from, but need not be limited to, theorists who:

  • Have an interest in specific theories of democracy, especially epistemic defences of democracy.
  • Are engaged in debates around citizenship and political participation.
  • Are engaged in debates about the justification and legitimacy of laws.
  • Work on the ethics of lying and deceit in politics.
  • Are concerned with the dissemination of facts and the construction of knowledge, and broader concepts such as ‘propaganda’.
  • Have an interest in epistemological discussions about the formation of knowledge relevant to politics.


Successful applicants will be allocated a one-hour slot at the workshop. Papers will be pre-circulated at least one week beforehand, and should be no longer than 5000 words.


To apply to participate in this workshop, please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words outlining your proposed paper, prepared for blind review, to ar362@leicester.ac.uk by Friday 19th May.


If you have any further questions feel free to get in contact via the email address above.


Andrew Reid (University of Leicester)


Please note that the cost of registration for the MANCEPT workshops this year is £230 for academics and £135 for graduate students or retirees. There are a limited number of bursaries available, details here, the deadline for which is June 16th. Successful applicants to this workshop will be notified in plenty of time to allow them to put together an application for a bursary.